Caring for Elderly Parents Part 2
(Continued from Part 1)
No matter what happens to our parents, we have to deal with the consequences and it is never easy watching a loved one decline. We need to adjust to the change in their wellbeing. Dementia and strokes in particular are cruel diseases and we find that we are gradually losing the mum or dad we knew, long before they die. You may have heard the term “anticipatory grief”. We can often start the grieving process while they are ill and caring for elderly parents can be a painful and heart breaking experience.
Caring for elderly parents does not stop once a parent moves to a care home. Although we may feel a sense of relief to start with, there is still the dilemma of how often we visit, depending on how close we live and decisions about the practicalities of bringing them home for visits occasionally, if it is possible. The care home should keep relatives informed of their progress, however it is often necessary to be closely involved in monitoring their well being. With the best will in the world, the care home staff cannot know the ins and outs of our parent’s health as well as we do. There may be times, when we have concerns about their health/welfare and need to request a GP visit. Also, care home policy usually asks relatives to accompany loved ones to hospital appointments etc, which may become more frequent as their health declines. It can take a few months for them to settle into their new “home” and again we may have very mixed emotions, if they do not seem to be happy. It may even be necessary to move a parent to another home, if we are not satisfied with the standards of care.
Of course, depending on the relationship you have with your parent/s, you could decide that you want to look after them yourself. Having spoken to people who have done this, it is not a decision to be taken lightly. It is a huge commitment and needs thinking through very carefully. Even with carers coming in to help, the responsibility of looking after them will impact on your life and that of your family more than can be imagined. Taking an elderly relative into your home is taking a step into the unknown. Firstly, you can’t anticipate future illness and what may seem manageable at first could become overwhelming, if their health deteriorates suddenly. Secondly, illnesses such as dementia can change someone’s personality and you could find yourself caring for a loved one who has become verbally and or physically aggressive. Thirdly, there are financial considerations both in the short and long term. If you are considering taking a parent into your home, always consult a solicitor. Having said all this, the arrangement can work very well for some families and I have great admiration for anyone who takes on the role of carer to their parents.
Talking to friends/work colleagues who are also caring for elderly parents, can help you to maintain your sense of humour and cope with what may be a long and difficult road. Sometimes, you might feel the need to talk to someone outside family and friends. Counselling offers you a chance to offload and can help you to find better ways of managing the issues which arise.
For more information on support for you and your loved one go to: